It is my Friday Lay Day blog and it is going to be relatively quick. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal (December 23, 2015) – Economists Say ‘Bah! Humbug!’ to Christmas Presents – that says a lot about how my profession struggles to appreciate reality in all its dimensions. Every year, it seems that this type of article is written. It discusses whether giving gifts at this time of year “represents an inefficient reallocation of resources”. As my friend Scott tweeted this morning it is just another example of (mainstream) rebuking parallel lines for not remaining straight.
It’s Friday again, my blog Lay Day, which means I fast track the blog entry in favour of other writing tasks. But one thing that is worth noting today (and I’m sort of catching up on recent events in my reading of them), is a speech that the Governor of the bank of Canada (its central bank) gave to the Empire Club of Canada in Toronto on December 8, 2015. The speech – Prudent Preparation: The Evolution of Unconventional Monetary Policies – was somewhat of a revelation given that it was coming from a central banker. Essentially, he admitted that monetary policy in the current situation was relatively ineffective and that expanding fiscal policy was the appropriate government strategy to address the cyclical downturn in non-government spending. He also disabused his audience of the notion that the current low growth environment was of a ‘structural’ nature. He said that the slow non-government spending growth was cyclical and reflected the reality of precarious private balance sheets and low confidence in the future. He channelled the writing of John Maynard Keynes, explicitly, which in itself, was a significant public recognition, especially by a central bank governor. So Canada has now elected a new government that is promised to increase the fiscal deficit to stimulate job creation and economic growth. It also has a central bank governor that implicitly is urging the government to use its fiscal policy capacities in that way. What a refreshing change!
It’s my Friday Lay Day blog and today I’m spending some time travelling and some time thinking about the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) textbook that I’ve been promising to finish for some time. I can confidently say now that we are on track to finish the first edition by March 2016. Randy Wray and I have taken on a third author (Martin Watts) and have agreed on a completion plan. More information on availability will be available in the new year as we get closer to completion. This week I noted a lot of comments (particularly with respect to my Job Guarantee post) that suggested many readers still do not exactly know what MMT is. Further, there was a heterodox conference in Sydney this week, where MMT proponents were accused of being neo-liberals and politically naive. Unfortunately, other commitments prevented me from attending the conference this year but I read the paper in question and wondered why salaried academics would bother writing it. So a few reflections on both those matters today.
It’s my Friday lay day blog and I am wading through a pile of documents tracing the evolution of internal French cabinet discussions in the 1960s. That sounds like fun doesn’t? What doesn’t sound like fun is reading through the documents provided by the Office for Budget Responsibility to accompany the so-called Autumn Statement. The – Economic and fiscal outlook – November 2015 – is one of those extraordinary neo-liberal documents that is in denial of reality. The upshot is that the ridiculously optimistic forecasts from the OBR in the latest round of spending revisions are giving George Osborne the opportunity to once again talk tough (as an ideological warrior) but avoid ‘walking the walk’ for the time being any way. Politically, extreme austerity of the Conservative kind will not go down well in Britain right now.
It’s my Friday lay day blog and I am spending most of today reading French documents from the 1960s. The French theme is appropriate given recent statements by the ‘new Napoleon’ a.k.a. François Hollande this week about his intentions to ignore the rigid fiscal rules imposed on Eurozone Member States and expand the fiscal deficit to allow him to employ a significant number of extra workers in various areas of policing and security. While abandoning the “Stability Treaty” to use Hollande’s own words, by which he means the Stability and Growth Pact and its associated and pernicious fiscal rules and oversight, is an admirable display of leadership, the fact that he can only see to do this by engaging in more machinery to entrench the ‘war on terror’ more deeply is disturbing. It would have been much better if he just admitted that fiscal rules governing the Eurozone Member States are unworkable and prevent a government from fulfilling its responsibilities to advance the well-being of its citizens. He is now open to debate in France was the Conservatives who clearly favour more state police, security and military expenditure, such is their xenophobia, but are now demanding that such expenditure is done within the narrow limits of the fiscal rules and are therefore calling for reductions in spending on health and public services. I doubt that even this new Napoleon will be able to sale free of the fiscal straitjacket that is the Eurozone, major security threats notwithstanding.
Its my Friday lay day and I am catching up on reading today. But one thing I have had to complete by today is the introduction to the German Translation of my friend Warren Mosler’s 2010 book – The Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy. The publisher wanted an introduction for the German readership that helped them relate the discussion in the book to the reality in Europe – given that the Economic and Monetary Union is a perverted hybrid of a fixed exchange rate/fiat currency system that works for no-one really. So you may be interested in reading my introduction. Then a dose of the master guitarist completes my Friday blog.
Its my Friday lay day blog and I am working on various projects today so I will cut this blog relatively short. Two things came up this week that I thought were interesting but only require a noting by way of blog entry. The first was a report about a mini-Job Guarantee type program in the New Mexico city of Albuquerque, which is demonstrating that public job creation programs can change peoples’ lives for the better when there is no hope and no other opportunities. The second story I read that was interesting was the Wolf Street Report (October 24, 2015) – Barcelona Threatens to Print Parallel Currency, Madrid Seethes – which discussed the plan by “Barcelona’s left-wing city council plans to roll out a cash-less local currency that has the potential to become the largest of its kind in the world”. The austerity-mavens in Madrid and their puppet masters in Brussels will be having conniptions at the prospect.
Its my Friday lay day so less blog more other things. I noted yesterday that I can sense that the tide is turning in the policy debate. There is now increased commentary that talks up the need for larger deficits and claiming we should not be worried about debt ratios and all the rest of the irrelevant financial ratios that blight the political capacity of governments to maintain high levels of employment and growth. The IMF and the OECD is increasingly urging governments to spend more on infrastructure even though they retain their blighted (and wrong) notion of ‘fiscal space’. Just a few years ago these organisations led the charge for austerity. The evidence has not supported their previous zeal. While those who desire a more evidence-based and theoretically consistent macroeconomics debate applaud the shift in rhetoric and sentiment, there is still the danger that the debates will be based on erroneous principles or blurred reasoning. It is good that the tools and arguments of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) are being use in the mainstream media to analyse important economic issues. But we also have to be careful to make sure our stories that accompany those tools and concepts don’t just create more fog – and resistance. The evidence suggests that there is still a long way to travel yet … but the tide is slowly turning. I will just keep at it!
Its my Friday lay day blog and today a short topic on banking. The Fairfax economics editor Peter Martin had a good story yesterday (October 22, 2015) – Westpac, Commonwealth Bank protect mortgage profits no matter what – which bears on the lack of competition that exists within the Australian financial sector.
Its my Friday lay day blog and I am catching up on things that I put to one side while I was away in Finland. But I have been doing some research on the impacts of the massive refugee flows into Northern Europe from the military conflicts in the Middle East. A more detailed analysis will appear later. The very difficult problem facing Europe, in particular, at present, and the World, in general is how to cope with the millions of people that are being displaced from their homelands by war, terrorism and/or environmental degradation. It is no easy task to deal with. The seemingly unending flow of refugees into Turkey and then greater Europe is challenging the archaic decision-making processes of the European Union. Once again it brings into relief the need for a ‘federal’ European government that can make binding decisions across the Member State space and provide fiscal backup to ensure those decisions are viable from a resource perspective. There was a Reuters report (October 15, 2015) – Refugee spending will drive our economy, Germany says – which noted that the refugee flows could underpin an economic boom in Germany, the first nation to announce it would settle large numbers of the asylum seekers. Here is part of the framework I am developing to consider this issue.